Illustration by Allegra Lockstadt for MPR
The Cedar Cultural Center was disappointed to announce last week the cancellation of a month-long musical residency, due to visa delays. The showcase, arranged through their Midnimo program, was slated to feature London-based Somali musician Aar Maanta and his band, the Urban Nomads.
Despite being hosted by the Cedar twice in the past, Maanta, the only Somali and Muslim member of the act, was still unable to be granted a visa. This was also going to be the band’s first time visiting other cities in Minnesota, with visits to Mankato and St. Cloud having to be shelved.
“This case is a concrete example of how travel restrictions and the travel ban limit artistic voices and freedom,” said Fadumo Ibrahim, the Cedar’s program manager overseeing the visa process for all Midnimo artists, in a statement. “While it’s obviously important for the artists, it’s equally important for the community who had been anticipating this residency. Aar Maanta’s visit to Minnesota would have brought hope and positivity to the Somali and larger communities here at a time when we all really need it.”
While the Cedar has previously faced visa challenges bringing Somali artists to Minnesota, Ibrahim noted that securing visas has become increasingly difficult over the past year, since the Trump administration’s travel restrictions have been put into effect. The Cedar says it submitted all required documentation to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) back in May.
On Sept. 5, Maanta alone was asked for further information in order to undergo “additional processing.” As of Oct. 4, the day of the cancellation announcement by the Cedar, Maanta had still not received his visa or any communication indicating when his visa would be approved.
Aar Maanta is perplexed by the adversity he has faced in his attempted return to the United States, but also hints at the ban’s over-arching impact globally. “I was shocked to be singled out and discriminated against by the Consulate,” said Maanta in a statement. “It is heartbreaking to know that systematic discriminatory rules, like the ‘Muslim ban’ put into practice in this day and age are affecting not only me, but people in far more vulnerable situations.”
Adrian Williams is a music business major at Augsburg University, musician, and current president of KAUG.